It’s been said over and over again that birth control is “life-saving” for some women, who need it to aid conditions such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts. But people also, overwhelmingly, use birth control to do exactly as its name implies: to control their fertility. Let’s stop hiding some of the lives we fight for under a “tactical” shroud.
While Hobby Lobby opposes offering contraceptive coverage, it does sell three types of knitting needles, just the kind that in the not-so-distant past, women who became pregnant and didn’t have access to legal abortion used to try and end their pregnancies themselves.
The leaders of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation have invited themselves into their employees’ bedrooms and medicine cabinets under the guise of religious freedom, and these bosses are seriously out of line.
According to a recent piece by Reuters, the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases are going to tackle the “unsettled science” of contraception. But there is no “unsettled science” here, no “scientific dilemma” concerning when pregnancy begins beyond one created by anti-choice activists.
What conservatives really mean when they talk about “religious freedom” has been revealed already by their longstanding crusade against the birth control benefit afforded by the Affordable Care Act. For them, having religious freedom requires the right to discriminate—against specific people, and in a specific way.
The “boss bill” is designed to close a loophole that could make room for employer discrimination; it would prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee’s (or a dependent’s) reproductive health decisions, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, or medical service.
State laws in Arizona, Kansas, Ohio, and elsewhere that would enshrine discrimination in the name of “religious liberty” have faced political setbacks, but a legal victory isn’t certain yet.
Much of the defense of the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act has focused on the public benefit to making contraception widely available and affordable. But there are a lot of reasons to uphold the mandate that have nothing to do with birth control.
Even if it is true that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act permits the religious exemptions sought by companies opposing the contraception mandate, what of the harm imposed on those whom the requirement is intended to benefit? What legal argument centers their concerns? The answer may lie in the Establishment Clause.
A flurry of legal briefs filed by members of Congress shows that resolution of the birth control benefit lawsuits is as much a political exercise as a judicial one.